The US media, already at odds with President Donald Trump, today criticised him for sacking FBI chief James Comey, saying his abrupt move has cast “grave doubt” on the viability of any further probe into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in America’s history. “The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value,” the Editorial Board of the New York Times said in an opinion piece.
Comey, the Director of the Federal Investigation Bureau deserves all the criticism heaped upon him for his “repeated missteps” in that case, but just as certainly, that’s not the reason Trump fired him, it said. By firing Comey, President Trump has “cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history,” the paper said.
“Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president,” it said, referring to the ongoing probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It also noted that the outcome of the probe could have “potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.”
“Comey’s firing takes the country closer to the dangerous collision that has been looming since allegations began about possible connections between Trump and his associates and the Russian covert influence operation Comey has been investigating since July,” The Washington Post’s Opinion writer David Ignatius commented.
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Trump will now appoint a new FBI director whose mission will include investigating Trump himself.
Trump’s abrupt firing of Comey will intensify focus on the issue Trump has been so eager to dismiss — his knowledge of contacts between Michael Flynn and other associates and Russia, the opinion piece said.
“Trump has been digging a hole for himself from the beginning on Russia-related issues. It’s an odd pattern of behavior. Trump may have done nothing improper involving Russia, but why does he act so defensive?,” it asked.
The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, said, “You can be critical of some of Comey’s actions in connection with the Clinton email investigation — as this page was — and still be alarmed by the way he has been removed by a president who has his own reasons for wanting to see Comey gone.”
“Frankly, the Comey firing is deeply troubling, reminiscent of (President) Richard Nixon’s forcing out of special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973. Like Comey, Cox was investigating the president,” it said.
“Now that Comey is gone there are two urgent priorities that Congress must insist on in its oversight role, the Los Angeles Times commented. The CNN commented that the firing of Comey was Trump’s most unpredictable and dangerous move yet.
The move marked the most unpredictable moment of a presidency that through its first 100-plus days has been the least orthodox in memory, the channel said. “The explanation for the move, which emerged into the stunned silence it caused, made little logical sense,” it said.
“Removing the person charged with overseeing an investigation into a foreign country attempting to influence US elections by hurting one candidate (Clinton) and helping another (Trump) sends a chilling message up and down the federal bureaucracy — not to mention the populace,” it added.
Tension between President Trump and news organisations has been a hallmark of his early administration. Trump has been attacking the media as “fake news” and even boycotted the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner last month.